This week we greeted Monday with a great sigh of relief in meeting the next stage of the roadmap out of restrictions, enabling families and friends to once again get together under one roof should they wish, and after all of this terrible rain recently I know that is especially welcome!
Traffic levels have now started to noticeably increase to almost pre-pandemic levels as more and more people are able to go out and about. This means that the issues we faced before, such as safety on the A1, need to remerge up the agenda.
Therefore, last week I convened a meeting with the leaders of our local authorities, and the Police and Crime Commissioner, to discuss our stretch of the A1 with the Roads Minister Baroness Vere, to express our concern at the delays by Highways England to make relatively minor upgrades that have been discussed for a while. Given the many stories of litter on the verges of the road we also raised this as a concern. I am pleased that the Minister has agreed to take it up with Highways England to keep the pressure on, on our behalf.
Meanwhile, since I wrote in this newspaper about my concerns about reports of pet theft in our area, the government last week launched a Pet Theft Task Force to investigate what is a deeply troubling crime. I will be monitoring this review very carefully and hope it leads to tougher action.
On a more positive note, I was lucky to step back in time while visiting local company, Skillington Workshop, in Grantham recently. The firm is one of the UK's foremost architectural and sculptural conservation firms. They have worked on amazing historical sites such as Westminster Cathedral and even installed the magnificently large window I pass most days in Westminster Hall next to the House of Commons!
It is yet another example of a Grantham business putting our town on the map and I am very proud that they are based here.
Last week I attended the state opening of Parliament by The Queen. This is when Her Majesty delivers a speech setting out her Government’s agenda for the next year. Normally the Palace of Westminster is packed with MPs and Peers, international dignitaries and tourists for the ceremony, however this year it was a much reduced occasion and I was confined to a pre-assigned socially distanced dot on the floor in Central Lobby to stand and watch the procession go by. I still felt very lucky to be there and part of it, though I am definitely looking forward to getting back to the pomp and regalia which Britain does so well next year.
The speech itself listed a range of new laws the Government intends to put forward, everything from tightening laws protecting our wildlife and environment, to reducing National Insurance for employers of veterans, to boosting skills provision. It is certainly going to be a busy year as we look to get the country back on track after such a difficult time.
Finally, I had such a lovely visit to the West Grantham Church of England Secondary Academy. It was good to hear about the smooth transition of both staff and pupils back to school after months of home learning, and especially talking to students in Year 10 about their hopes for the future of our town.
It is just such a relief to be able to do these visits again, to see our community pull through and to refocus on the important non-COVID issues we all care about.